British Kids Being Mummy-fied

Hi Readers:  Just in case you were wondering what America may to start look like, in terms of helicoptering, check out this story from ahead-of-the-craziness-curve England. It notes:

The survey of 6,099 people commissioned by LV= Streetwise, a charity that educates children about safety, revealed that nearly a quarter of children aged 15 or under were not allowed to sleep at a friend’s house, 60 percent were forbidden to travel on public transport alone and 43 percent can’t go to the park without a parent or guardian.

It said more than 60 percent of mums and dads think the world is more dangerous than when they were kids.

…In contrast, just four percent of today’s adults say they were banned from sleeping-over when they were 15 or younger, only two percent were forbidden to use public transport, and the same number couldn’t go out on their own in familiar surroundings, such as their local town or park.

Got that? Just one generation ago, 98% of children were allowed to go, on their own, to the local park (not to mention the bus)!

All the more reason to get behind May 22’s “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day,” say I.  (Of course, I would.) Kids are being coddled, crippled and caged thanks to overblown parental fears. While most parents think the world has gone to hell in a handbasket filled with predators, kids today are actually SAFER than WE were when WE were kids — at least here in America. Crime is lower today than it was in the ’70s and ’80s (and not just because the kids are inside).

England is ahead of us when it comes to parental hysteria. It is time for us to declare our independence –again! And if you want to celebrate with a cookout and sparklers, go right ahead. (Just keep a fire extinguisher handy.) — Lenore

Don't Tread on Kids

Outrage of the Week: Wings “Too Dangerous” for Kids to Wear in Nativity Play —

You know, every time I get one of these stories, a reader-angel earns her wings — in this case, a gal named Chrissy McKnight. The story she sent hails from nervous ol’ England, where a Catholic primary school has banned kids from wearing angel wings because the “health and safety of the children is paramount” and these wings these catch on fire. As a wing-supplier noted with justified self-interest: Isn’t the risk around candles that ANYTHING could catch on fire?

Perhaps next year’s nativity play should be performed in dive suits.  — Lenore

England Getting Battier

Hi Readers — Here’s the news from across the seas. Or sea, anyway. Or ocean, really. Anyway, a reader writes:

If you want more UK stories – a couple below:

I noticed a warning in a store here (see photo) that it is now illegal to sell crackers to people under the age of 16.  Crackers are a traditional British novelty at Christmas and celebrations – they’re little surprise parcels that two people pull apart and that usually contain a (generally poor quality!) gift and a joke.  They also have a small amount of explosive that creates the “crack.”  It’s tiny – not like a cap guns, not like Chinese firework crackers – a tiny little pop. Under 16?  So you can’t now send your 15 year old daughter out to get another box when unexpected guests turn up.  She also couldn’t buy them for a party for friends, or just because they’re fun.  It’s absurd.

In other news, from the Times Online today a piece about Ofsted (Britain’s schools standards body) inspections: a “school was judged to be inadequate because inspectors deemed the fence around the playground low enough for child snatchers to reach in and grab pupils”.

Child snatching from British schools must have become a new pass time while I was out of the country.

Cracker warning? Or cracking up warning?

OK, Now: When Is BOWLING Perfectly Safe? (Hint: Never.)

Yes, Readers: That was the conclusion over in less-than-jolly, indeed, downright macabre England. According to this article, a  group of safety experts was assigned to assess the sport’s dangers:

After two years and £250,000, they found that ten-pin bowling alleys up and down the country could be a ‘very dangerous’ environment for families.

They concluded that it was too easy for children or teenagers to run down lanes and get trapped in machinery that sets up the pins – even though there was no record of any such accident having happened.

I love this study,  not just for its conclusion, but for its classic “what if?” reasoning. And by the way, “what if?” kids playing jacks start eating them? And “what if” kids playing baseball start hitting each other over the head with the bats? And “what if” all the runners in a race decide to tie their shoelaces together at the starting line? They’ll fall down and possibly suffer life-threatening brain injuries!

Start thinking “what if?” and absolutely no activity is safe — not even blogging! Because “what if,” using my chin, I slam this laptop shut on my wrists? Yikes! I’m signing off — Lenore

When Is A Christmas Tree PERFECTLY Safe?

Here’s when. I thought this article was a joke. Then I thought the tree was. Then I remembered: We are living in 2009.

This cone-tree, erected in a public square, has no pine needles to poke an eye out, no branches to clobber anyone, no feature at all to remind us that trees — and people — live in the real world. And maybe come spring  the town will erect a shoe box representing that other great threat to humanity:  the Easter Bunny. — Lenore

Ding-Dong. Who’s There? The Safety Police!

That’s what’s happening in England, folks: A new proposal to have safety experts go into families’  homes to make sure they’re utterly safe, right down the stair guards. Woe to the family that babyproofs in a manner not approved by the state!

Here’s the Times OnLine article about the new guidelines, and here’s a comment someone posted that I especially enjoyed:

[The article said that] “About 100,000 children are admitted to hospital each year for home injuries at a cost of £146m.”

I’m delighted to hear that. It indicates that at least 100,000 of the next generation will still be willing to take risks and behave uninhibitedly. It’s the other 10,000,000 I worry about, the ones who will be taught never to go out in the rain in case they catch a cold.

It’s not that Free-Range Kids rejects all safety measures. Are you kidding? Safety is GOOD. I personally love window guards and I put latches on my cabinets when my kids were younger. But I, for instance, think toilet locks are a waste of money. What if the government disagrees? What if I think it’s my job to teach the kids not to open the oven, but the government believes I ought to invest in some oven guards? And what if the government ends up endorsing baby knee pads? (Maybe that’s good because that way, when I feel like banging my head against a baby’s knee in utter frustration, neither of us will get hurt.)  — Lenore

No Parents on the Playground! (They Might Be Predators)

Hi Readers — Take a Valium  THEN read this: Two “adventure” playgrounds in England  have BANNED PARENTS. After all, parents are adults and so are sexual predators,  so from now on, in the land of the Magna Carta, only playground workers who have passed a background check will be allowed in. Why?

Councillors in Watford claim they are only following Government guidelines and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds “unchecked”.

You know, I never thought of myself as walking around “unchecked” before. Anyway, more bureaucracy:

“Due to … regulations we have a responsibility to ensure that every authorised adult who enters our site is properly vetted and given a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check by Watford Borough Council.”

Council Mayor Dorothy Thornhill argued they are merely enforcing government policy at the play areas, in Vicarage Road and Leggatts Way .

She said: “Sadly, in today’s climate, you can’t have adults walking around unchecked in a children’s playground and the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults.

“We have reviewed our procedures, so although previously some parents have stayed with their children at the discretion of our play workers, this is not something we can continue to do.

“There are other places in the town for parents with small children to go.”

Yeah, like “to hell.” — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: Humpty Dumpty SAFE???

Dear Readers: Cracked! That’s what the folks are over in Britain where one of the BBC’s kiddie programs (created for children with special needs but a big fave with all the under-fives, apparently), is teaching the kids that Humpty Dumpty did indeed sit on the wall. And he did have a great fall. BUT all the kings horses and all the kings men somehow “Made Humpty happy again.”

And not in tasty omelette form!

Good God, are we SO AFRAID for our children that we think they will be traumatized by hearing of an egg that broke? Are they going to have flashbacks the next time they see a piece of French toast? Are our kids more fragile than the eggs themselves?

Bigger question: Why do we think we are HELPING our kids by assuming that a nursery rhyme that delighted several  hundred years’ worth of children is suddenly too much for this current generation to bear? 

And wait’ll the kids hear about Little Red Ridinghood!! (I’m sure she and the fox will open an organic bakery together.) — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: Boy Scouts Forbidden to Carry Pen Knives!!

Readers — This one is so utterly insane I’ve been saving it all week as just the thing to shake us up all weekend. (Why we should spend all weekend shook up by the insanity of pop culture, I don’t know. But somehow, it just feels right.)

Anyway, here it is, from Times Online in England:

Penknives may have formed as much part of the scouting experience as badges and campfires, but according to advice from the Scout Association they must no longer be brought on camping trips, except when there is a “specific” need.

The reason is a growing “knife culture” in England — despite the fact that no one seems to have been stabbed to death by a Boy Scout on his way to a campfire. While apparently carrying a fold-up knife whose blade is shorter than 3 inches is still actually legal, the Scout Assocation nonetheless recommends that “knives should be carried to and from meetings by an adult and must not be carried around campsites.”

Maybe Scouts should be carried to and from meetings by an adult, too?

Both my sons are Boy Scouts. I love the Scouts and thank God they take kids out into the wilderness (albeit, here in New York City, by subway, ferry and taxi. For real.) Without knives would my boys feel half as loyal, brave, reverent, thrifty and, more to the point, COOL? No way. Knives are one of the biggest lures of Scouts, beckoning boys into a  culture that inculcates all sorts of great stuff, like resourcefulness, responsibility, and the ability to suck venom from a snake bite.

Free-Range Kids’ message to Britian’s Scout Association is simple: Grow up. — Lenore

Outrage o’ the DAY: Dad Branded ‘Perv’ For Photographing Own Kids in Park

Folks — it doesn’t get any creepier than this: A dad in Britain takes pix of his adorable sons on an inflatable slide and finds himself accused of all manner of disbusting stuff. Can we say it again? We are in the midst of a Pedophile Panic!

When Gary Crutchley started taking pictures of his children playing on an inflatable slide he thought they would be happy reminders of a family day out.

But the innocent snaps of seven-year-old Cory, and Miles, five, led to him being called a ‘pervert’.

The woman running the slide at Wolverhampton Show asked him what he was doing and other families waiting in the queue demanded that he stop.

Gary Crutchley pic of sons Cory and Miles

Picture of innocence: The photograph Gary Crutchley took of his sons Cory and Miles

One even accused him of photographing youngsters to put the pictures on the internet.

Mr Crutchley, 39, who had taken pictures only of his own children, was so enraged that he found two policemen who confirmed he had done nothing wrong.

Let’s hear it for the police…and sanity! — Lenore